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Explains how mental health problems can affect insurance cover, what your rights are, and how to choose the right cover for you. Includes a list of specialist insurance providers.
It's understandable to wonder if you should disclose (tell an insurance provider about) your mental health problem or not. However, if you don't answer questions about your mental health completely truthfully, and your insurance provider finds out, this could have some serious consequences.
It doesn't make any difference whether you actively lie to the insurance provider (for example, if the form asks you 'have you ever had a mental health problem?', and you tick a box to say 'no'), or whether you simply fail to tell the whole truth (for example, if you do disclose your mental health problem, but don't tell the insurer important details, meaning they don't have all the information they require to assess your claim).
There's also a chance that any kind of dishonesty could be considered fraudulent under the Fraud Act 2006, and may have criminal law consequences.
So it's generally not a good idea to lie – or conceal the truth – about your mental health history when applying for insurance.
Yes, but only within the law.
The law that protects you from disability discrimination in England and Wales is the Equality Act 2010. This law says that insurance providers can only lawfully treat you differently on the basis of your mental health problem (for example by refusing to cover you or charging you more), if both the following are true:
(The Equality Act may also protect you from discrimination if you had a disability in the past which you no longer have, and also if the insurance provider believes you have a disability but you haven’t. See our legal pages on disability discrimination for more information.)
Insurance companies make decisions about whether to provide cover, and how much to charge for it, based on their assessment of the risk involved. They need to find out relevant information to help them assess this risk.
For information to be relevant, there must be a connection between your mental health problem and whatever you are buying insurance for.
For example, if you apply for income protection insurance, the insurance provider will assess the risk of you losing your job (and them having to pay out on your claim). Your mental health might be relevant information, because it might affect the likelihood of you becoming unable to work.
If the information that the insurance provider relies on when assessing your application is not relevant, then a decision to deny you cover or to charge you more would be unlawful discrimination.
Insurance providers must base their decisions on information from reliable sources. This could include:
If the information the insurance company uses is not accurate or reliable – for example if it is out-of-date or from an unreliable source – the decision to refuse you cover or charge you more would be unlawful. Insurance companies sometimes do not tell you clearly about the information they have relied on to make their decisions.
If you have been denied insurance cover, or if the insurance premiums you are being charged seem too high, our page on complaints and legal action explains how you can challenge this.
There isn't any agreed legal definition of 'reasonable' in this context, but these are some examples of unreasonable behaviour:
Insurance providers cannot access your medical records without your consent. However, if you tell them about a mental health problem, the insurance provider will often ask for further information from your doctor. They may also ask you to see an independent doctor that they choose.
In this situation, you have the following rights:
If you refuse to give written consent, refuse to allow your doctor to send their report or refuse to see an independent doctor, an insurance company may decide to refuse to insure you. Unfortunately, this is their legal right and there is nothing you can do about this.
See our legal pages on your personal information for more information about your rights regarding access to your medical records.
This information was published in April 2018. We will revise it in 2021.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.